|Cassidy and I walk the Lake Shore Trail around Shawnee Lake in Shawnee State Park in Bedford County.|
About two years ago, my then-girlfriend (now wife) Cassidy was working for a newspaper and would often talk about her trips to Shawnee State Park for assignments. I had heard about the park before but never visited it. Shawnee is about 40 minutes southwest of Altoona/Hollidaysburg. That's not a far drive considering I travel the same distance to hike trails in Huntingdon County; those destinations can take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour to reach.
Cassidy told me Shawnee State Park features a gorgeous lake that we could walk around. She said "lake," and that was all the persuasion I needed.
The first thing I noticed on my inaugural trip to Shawnee State Park was how big the lake is. Shawnee Lake comes in at 451 acres in size, according to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. In comparison, Canoe Lake in Canoe Creek State Park (my go-to park) is only 155 acres, meaning Shawnee Lake is nearly three times larger. Shawnee still doesn't match up to huge lakes such as Raystown (nearly 8,300 acres) or Erie (it's one of the Great Lakes; you get the picture), but it's a decent size for a body of water in a state park.
When I saw Shawnee Lake, I thought about how great it would be to kayak and fish on it. While I haven't fished the lake yet, I have kayaked with Cassidy there, and it was one of the most fun times we've had together on the water. The lake is calm, so Cassidy and I were able to paddle in separate kayaks and still keep up with each other.
|Cassidy and I kayaking on Shawnee Lake.|
Some days, however, when the temperature is high, I'd rather be in the water instead of on top of it.
Shawnee Lake features a sand beach with a facility that includes changing rooms, sinks, mirrors and working toilets inside stalls. There are also vending machines that sell water, soda and a variety of snacks. The beach is wide, so visitors can spread out and enjoy basking in the sun or taking a dip in the lake without being on top of one another. A grassy area is nearby for those who don't like getting sand everywhere.
|The beach is much wider than this. I'm just poor and don't own a wide-angle lens.|
Not everyone is as intrigued by water as I am, though. Shawnee State Park has other options for landlubbers, too.
Cassidy and I like going on walks together. She told me about a trail at Shawnee that circles the lake, so of course, I wanted to try it.
This is the Lake Shore Trail -- a 3.4-mile-long walking and cycling path that encompasses a large portion of Shawnee Lake -- and it's now one of my favorite short-distance trails anywhere. It's the park's second-longest trail, but it's the most beautiful. The Lake Shore Trail takes walkers and bike riders around the tree-covered "coast" of the lake, across the dam that maintains the water levels, and by the sand beach I mentioned earlier. The trail is well maintained and lacks drastic changes in elevation, so it's accommodating to anyone whom favors taking a pleasant stroll around the lake and park. At a moderate pace, the Lake Shore Trail can be completed in about an hour.
|The Lake Shore Trail is shaded in most spots.|
|The Lake Shore Trail passes over the dam for Shawnee Lake.|
|The Lake Shore Trail stays close to the water, offering wonderful views of Shawnee Lake.|
The longest footpath is the Forbes Trail coming in at 3.8 miles. If that sounds familiar, it's because the trail takes its name after Forbes Road, the route that British Gen. John Forbes took during his campaign to take over Fort Duquesne from the French in present-day Pittsburgh. According to DCNR, Forbes and some other guy in the British army named George Washington camped within the boundaries of present-day Shawnee State Park during the Forbes Road expedition in 1758. The Forbes Trail in the park follows some of Forbes and Washington's route, according to DCNR. It's kind of exhilarating to say you walked in the footsteps of the eventual first president of the United State.
Shawnee State Park offers several other outdoor activities, including a nine-hole disc golfing course; ice skating, sledding and snowmobiling during the winter (in certain locations, obviously); and fishing, with potential prizes including smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, muskellunge, pickerel, catfish, crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, sunfish, sucker, bullhead and carp, according to DCNR.
Maybe all these activities sound like they take a lot of effort, but you just want to relax and do nothing for a while. Shawnee State Park includes numerous pavilions and picnic tables to have a charming lunch by the lake. For a long-term stay at the park, visitors can camp at one of the 290 camping sites. The sites have various accommodations including camping, cottages and yurts, according to DCNR.
By now, you should have found something you can do at Shawnee State Park. My recommendation is going on a summer day when you can walk the Lake Shore Trail, kayak for an hour or so to take in the scenery (maybe fish while you're out there) and then head for a swim at the beach to cool off and relax. It will feel like a mini-vacation to the shore -- all within central Pennsylvania.